Sunday, March 11, 2007

There was a profile of comedian George Carlin in the Providence Journal today. I've been a fan of Carlin since I saw him perform live at a show at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio in 1968. I was 20 years old. Five weeks into basic training.

Carlin was 30 years old. He wore a gray suit and a conservative tie. His hair was short.

The next time I saw Carlin was on TV. I'd just been discharged from the Air Force. Carlin had changed. He had shoulder length hair, was wearing tight blue jeans and a T shirt. Sandals were on his feet.

This was 1972. Four years after I'd first seen him on that stage down in Texas. I couldn't believe the Kafkaesque metamorphosis. Last time I'd seen him he looked like an accountant.

What I saw reminded me of how the singer Bobby Darin had changed. The last time I saw him was on The Tonight Shoe. He was singing that Tim Hardin song, " If I were a Carpenter. " Darin had worn a toupee for years. Dressed in suits and ties and expensive Italian shoes. Now he was bald on top and what hair he had was tied in the back into a ponytail. He had a beard. wore cheap blue jeans and a cheap shirt. And sandals. This was sometime in the late 1960s, early 70s.

You hear " The 60s " and you might think folks are talking about the decade that started in 1960 and ended on New Year's Eve, 1969. Not true. The 60s started somewhere around 1966 and ended somewhere around the time the helicopters took off from Saigon.

The 60s wasn't about time. It was about attitude and change. It was about a cultural revolution started by JFK, who was shot and was reincarnated in the form of a British rock and roll group whose hair didn't make a lick of sense to folks who first saw them on the cover of Life Magazine. Swimming in the pool. The 60s was about style and it was about fun. The first place I asked directions for after I landed on British soil ( I was stationed on a base just north of London ) in 1969 was:

" How do I get to Carnaby Street? "

It's 2007. George Carlin is 70 years old. He's had three heart attacks and has been in rehab a few times ( For all the right reasons ). He's still funny as hell, smart as a whip and I love him.

Carlin. He's so fookin' Irish to the bone he is. Witty. Playful. In love with the language we speak.

Someone asked Carlin recently why he does what he does, and why he's been doing it for so long. Is his aim to make people laugh? Is his purpose to make people think?

Carlin says no. He says he does what he does because he likes the attention. Says he's like a sixth grade boy trying to prove he's smarter than the rest of the kids in the class. More cute than the rest of the bastards. I admire his honesty.

It's almost St.Patrick's Day. Hoist your glass, lads. Here's to George Carlin.

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